[QQ]There comes a time when electronic mail is not robust or secure enough to deliver essential messages, particularly across the Internet.[QQ] This is where secure application messaging steps in.[QQ] To ensure greater security and speed, the messages are usually sent direct between applications, hence the name. A specialised set of software known as message-oriented middleware (MoM) is used to link the applications and guarantee that vital messages arrive on time.[QQ] Secure application messaging is usually adopted by large organisations with widely dispersed operations which need a reliable method of keeping in touch.[QQ] There are plans to integrate MoM software with other types of middleware.[QQ] The Gartner Group identifies two other major middleware categories in addition to MoM - transaction processing monitors (TPMs) and object request brokers (ORBs). It is possible that all three types of middleware will be combined to form what has been termed a common communications bus.[QQ] A key principle of MoM software is its use of message queues as a way of ensuring that messages arrive in an orderly, predetermined fashion.[QQ] The sort of targets that can be achieved are for messages to be reliably delivered in five seconds.[QQ] Message security is addressed in two ways. First, the software can be set up so messages can be received by authorised users only. Second, it can also use various techniques to ensure the integrity of the data during transmission[QQ] Typically installed on top of an existing network infrastructure, the MoM queuing mechanism retains the sending instructions even if a branch office line fails. Once the connection is restored, messages are sent as originally instructed.[QQ] IBM leads the MoM market with its MQSeries software. Research company the Standish Group estimates that in 1996 IBM had a 34 per cent share of a market which was then worth $153m. Standish predicts the total worth of the MoM software market will reach $700m within three years. IBM's own estimates suggest that it now has a market share of nearer 45 per cent, according to MQSeries business manager Colin Osborne.[QQ] There are other players in the MoM business, however, with Microsoft, BEA Systems and Swedish company Frontec showing some promise. Microsoft's product is known as MSMQ or Falcon, and it is scheduled to be included in future versions of Windows NT.[QQ] BEA now owns the MessageQ technology originally developed by Digital.[QQ] It has also taken on Digital's Objectbroker ORB, as well as Novell's TPM Tuxedo.[QQ] One major development in application messaging has been the founding of the Business Quality Messaging group (BQM). IBM, Microsoft and networked solutions provider Candle are key participants. The group's remit is to provide a set of basic specifications for MoM software and buying guidelines for users. This opens up the prospect of making MoM engines work together more easily and even making it simple to swap between different products.[QQ] Candle is dealing with the technology involved in improving engine compatibility, encapsulating its MoM integration in an initiative called Project Roma.[QQ] Stage two of Roma - an auto bridge between MQSeries and Falcon - has just entered the beta testing stage. This is the next stage on from providing basic interoperability between the two packages. According to Candle's chairman and CEO Aubrey Chernick, other MoM products will be covered if there is market demand.[QQ] However, the company isn't entirely convinced about the middleware fusion proposed by other vendors. Chernick says Candle's aim is the creation of a specialised message broker.[QQ] With only four basic commands, MoM software is simple to use. Yet application messaging systems have tended to be standalone solutions in the past.[QQ] Gateways had to be provided between different environments when different MoM engines were used. Now that these issues are being addressed and the middleware solutions are starting to emerge, secure application messaging look likely to remain an important foundation of communication services.[QQ] [QQ] CASE STUDY 1:[QQ] Bank of Ireland[QQ] ACTIVITIES:[QQ] Banking[QQ] INSTALLATION:[QQ] MessageQ[QQ] USES:[QQ] Retail banking transactions, credit checks and so on[QQ] [QQ] When the Bank of Ireland upgraded to Digital Alphaservers in 1994, the platforms came bundled with MessageQ software and other middleware solutions.[QQ] With 560 branches in the Republic of Ireland and the UK and about 4,600 PC users, the bank subsequently found that application messaging was a useful transport medium for short but frequent messages where delivery needed to be guaranteed.[QQ] Peter McFeelie, manager of the design office at the Bank of Ireland, says: 'MessageQ wasn't implemented until February 1996 and it took a couple of months to ramp it up. A telephone banking operation was the first project, but we have now installed the software across our entire retail banking network.'[QQ] The bank's branches need to make frequent credit checks based on values in various accounts. McFeelie says the message-oriented middleware (MoM) option is the best and safest way to do this, as MessageQ is easy to use, with four basic messaging functions and a simple application programming interface (API).[QQ] About 95 per cent of transacted messages arrive at their destination within three to five seconds. While this is much slower than the sub-second delivery times required for the bank's online transaction processing (OLTP), it is satisfactory for messages, says McFeelie. 'One of the major benefits of using MoM software is the assurance that messages will be delivered,' he adds. 'This is particularly valuable during line outage, which every branch experiences from time to time. Users can continue to generate messages, knowing that they will be held in queues ready to be transmitted once the network connection is restored.'[QQ] When it came to integrating the MessageQ system with other IT resources, the Bank of Ireland found that gateways could be used to link up with its IBM mainframes. Gateways have been used to link its CICS and IMS transaction software residing on these host boxes with MessageQ traffic. A gateway has also been built to route the application messaging software through a Tandem installation at the company.[QQ] But there may be a more pressing need for integration between MessageQ and other systems in the future. For example, an object request broker will be introduced at the bank's IT base at some point, as will Java.[QQ] McFeelie has delayed implementing the latter, however, because of concerns about the performance of the applets.[QQ] Expanding the original small number of platforms covered by MessageQ was among the initial challenges the Bank of Ireland faced in application messaging. This led to the work creating gateways to IBM and Tandem hosts, although McFeelie says this wasn't a major challenge. The bank has also written some of its own message formats to add to the core MessageQ deployment.[QQ] According to McFeelie, one of MessageQ's main benefits is that it has made it easier to manage the messaging data, which is contained entirely in one system. This fits comfortably with the bank's key IT principle of running a multi-tier architecture with presentation logic, business logic and data all encapsulated in separate tiers.[QQ] [QQ] CASE STUDY 2:[QQ] Stora[QQ] ACTIVITIES:[QQ] Paper and pulp production[QQ] INSTALLATION:[QQ] AMTrix[QQ] USES:[QQ] Integrating its existing and emerging IT base with EDI projects[QQ] Swedish company Stora, the sixth largest paper and pulp producer in the world, is using application messaging technology to integrate its existing and emerging IT base with wide-ranging projects in the electronic data interchange (EDI) field. For this purpose, the company has adopted Frontec's AMTrix MoM software.[QQ] Stora operates 24 mills and 60 sales outlets, with 90 per cent of its business coming from Europe. The company has about 7,000 PC users out of a total workforce of 21,000.[QQ] According to Christian Thunberg, Stora's IT manager, the eventual goal is to use EDI messaging to handle purchase orders and responses. AMTrix is deployed as a standard interface to any EDI set-up at the company.[QQ] Thunberg explains that the first stage of Stora's EDI strategy is to acquire knowledge and develop the company's core infrastructure to run such services.[QQ] Then EDI will be rolled out across the organisation, which will involve creating gateways to key applications and other networks.[QQ] Included in this plan are links to Systems Software Associates' BPCS software suite - which runs on Stora's 100 AS/400 computers - as well as connections to managed networks such as GEIS. The company also plans to install NT throughout its operation in the next year or so.[QQ] Ultimately, Stora plans to bring all its trading partners into the EDI project, creating a fully electronically connected supply chain. Thunberg says certain customers who supported the EDI strategy have been included in the project from the start, and he predicts that up to 80 per cent of key communications with partners will take place using the EDI network over the next three years.[QQ] 'Overall we intend to increase sales by a factor of three over the next two years. Stora opened a US division in October 1996 and has a 50 per cent stake in a pulp project in Brazil. Expansion in Asia will be step by step. Frontec's AMTrix represents our standard EDI converter, working on 20 platforms now with this figure doubling over the next 18 months,' explains Thunberg.[QQ] The EDI network Stora is creating is based on the international Edifact standard, with subsets particular to the paper and pulp business built in.[QQ] [QQ] CASE STUDY 3:[QQ] Delta Air Lines Transquest[QQ] ACTIVITIES:[QQ] Airline[QQ] INSTALLATION:[QQ] MQSeries[QQ] USES:[QQ] Communicating vital information across a diverse computing set-up[QQ] Delta Air Lines spends about $500,000 a year on its IT base, according to Mark Whitney, director of middleware at Transquest, the carrier's IT services group. In keeping with this hefty budget, the airline uses a wide range of systems. These range from IBM mainframes to older, mid-range machines, PCs, several versions of Unix and all the applications which come with such a computing array.[QQ] Inevitably, complexity became a headache at Delta. 'Over time we lost the ability to link our systems together,' says Whitney. 'If we had problems, the best we could manage was a post mortem 24 hours later. Now the time period is three seconds to get key data ready for a publish and subscribe situation.'[QQ] Delta managed this major improvement in information delivery by installing IBM's MQSeries application messaging software. Apart from the Oracle database, which is used across most of Delta's enterprise computers, MQSeries represents one of the comp-any's few common IT elements.[QQ] Communications between Delta's various IT operations were synchronous in the past, but information ended up getting trapped in different systems.[QQ] MQSeries has ports to most of the brands of enterprise computers used at Delta. Its optional asynchronous properties mean that applications can be tapped, key data extracted and placed in a message queue, so ensuring delivery of vital messages.[QQ] The essential data now delivered via application messaging at the airline includes all information on flight legs, allied to a system which receives a feed for the US Federal Aviation Authority.[QQ] According to Whitney, Delta has derived a number of benefits from deploying application messaging. For example, the airline has hundreds of flights flying in and out of Atlanta airport in the US, and Delta staff can now scroll through important information on all the aircraft and services associated with them. This amounts to what Whitney calls 'real-time airport management'. He claims that this set-up has led to daily operational benefits and has also helped to improve customer service.[QQ] Bringing in MQSeries is only part of a broader strategy at Delta, however, which includes marrying transaction processing, application messaging and the object request broker (ORB). Delta has chosen the Orbix ORB from Irish vendor Iona Technologies, for both the client and server ends of its system. MQSeries sits as an underlying layer to the ORB. In the next year, Delta plans to bring in Java to further assist its drive to establish cross-platform integration of its IT base.[QQ] [QQ] ON MESSAGING[QQ] 1 Consider your organisation's current messaging systems. Does information fail to get to key users and managers securely and on time? Do you run a heterogeneous IT environment which is hard to link together? Will you need to interface the company's and supply chain's systems with some external network, such as EDI? If you answer 'yes' to these questions, application messaging may be worthwhile.[QQ] 2 Decide early on whether the application messaging project needs integrating with other middleware, such as transaction processing monitors (TPMs) and object request brokers (ORBs).[QQ] 3 When choosing an applications messaging engine, look closely at what each product offers, in particular its integration features and how they match up to IT resources which need connecting in the organisation.[QQ] 4 Gain awareness of initiatives such as the Business Quality Messaging Group, which will provide buying guidelines.[QQ] - MessageQ: BEA Systems on 01494 559500[QQ] - AMTrix: Frontec on 0181 814 4700[QQ] - MQSeries: IBM on 01256 56144.
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